The following is meant to be a brief gameplay analysis; so bear with us here, there's a lot of ground to cover. However, little in Phantom Pain is meant to happen quickly. This is an enormous game theater with so many moving parts. We should note, this is the very first truly open-world Metal Gear title. It takes place in various locals within and around Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. Players will reprise their role as Big Boss aka Venom Snake—just a couple of the many aliases the character has used throughout the convoluted Metal Gear lore over the years. Though he should be called Taciturn-Snake for his flat affect, stoic demeanor and significant lack of spoken lines. Silent but deadly right? Exactly.
Snake, The Charmer -
There is so much to do in Phantom Pain. As Snake you will ultimately be working to build your army and base while simultaneously conducting a variety of missions which include assassinations, personnel rescue/extractions, locate sensitive documents resources or materials or the demolition of key enemy ordinances. You choose how you want to tackle each mission, deployment location and time of day for deployment. In the beginning, player resources are limited to a primary rifle, the familiar tranquilizer sidearm, knife, grenades, NV goggles and binoculars. You also get a trusty horse which you can call to your side from seemingly infinite distances, similar to The Witcher 3.
However, each mission and each new day brings more money (as daily rewards) to spend on weapons, gear and vehicles. But you can also have your men build and customize new weapons and gear. More men on your team means more resources at your disposal. This presents a great new gameplay dynamic and gives players a fantastic reason to leave enemies alive. You can also retrieve weapons now, from fallen enemies—something had been sorely absent from most previous Metal Gear games.
Snake is given a device that allows him to immediately extract (via balloon) virtually anything from the battlefield. Items, weapons, livestock and enemy personnel are sent back to your base where they are either repurposed for your use or “convinced” to join your army thereby filling out your ranks. You can assign roles and duties to the indoctrinated or simply allow the game to automatically task them to R&D research for new items and weapons, Intel, medics and more. You can also take these brainwashed folks out to support you on missions. Some specialized units like Quiet, your scantily-clad sniper friend and Diamond Dog, provide more unique gameplay opportunities and nuances. Diamond Dog has far better senses than Snake and will spot enemies more efficiently so they are highlighted on your map and in the game world. As for Quiet, I don’t want to spoil her disappearing/teleporting goodness. She’s an indispensable long-range asset.
An Adaptable Game Engine -
The number of obtainable items, weapons, special units and the like are seemingly endless. After 30 hours into the game we are still seeing new gear, new personnel to co-op with and new ways to complete missions. Oh, did we mention there are a ton of side-ops missions, which will yield either money and items or new units such as the handy Russian translator.
Touches like that, grant the game a very organic feel and makes it quite playable. You could choose not to rescue the Russian translator. Yet doing so certainly behooves English-only Snake, an intel-driven super-spy slinking around Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. Your choices matter and the game will learn and grow organically as well. Get too comfortable calling in aerial support from your helicopter and watch as future units begin to tote rocket launchers to compensate. It’s challenging and damn fun!